Three new shipwrecks discovered in Lake Superior

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society discovered the three near Grand Marais.
The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society recently discovered three 1800’s-era shipwrecks...
The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society recently discovered three 1800’s-era shipwrecks in Lake Superior around the vicinity of Grand Marais, MI.(The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS)
Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 12:34 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS) recently discovered three 1800′s-era shipwrecks in the area of Grand Marais along Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Several other shipwrecks have also been found and are awaiting positive identification.

Using a combination of historical research, technology, and teamwork, members of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society’s Underwater Research team have mapped areas where ships were reported lost, then searched those areas using the organization’s 50′ research vessel, David Boyd. Marine Sonic Technology side-scan sonar was employed to analyze the lake bottom and identify submerged wrecks.

The GLSHS said its banner year is successful because of the ability to search wider and faster than ever before.

“We have well over 2500 miles of searching this year alone. We’re searching 100 miles a day,” said GLSHS Director of Marine Operations, Darryl Ertel. “We’re traveling at over 9 miles an hour as we’re searching and we’re seeing great detail on the bottom, it’s amazing.”

This year saw the most shipwrecks found in a single season.

“This has been a great year for us at the Shipwreck Museum, and we have never located so many new wrecks in one season,” said Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum Executive Director, Bruce Lyn. “Each shipwreck has its own story…and the drama of the Drake and the Michigan, and the rescue of both crews…these are fantastic, true stories that we can tell in the museum someday.”

The latest shipwreck discoveries and a bit of their stories are:

Dot, a schooner that sank on Aug. 25, 1883

The steamship M.M. Drake was towing the schooner, down from Marquette with a load of iron ore, when the Dot started taking on water. Captain Jones hailed the M.M. Drake, which came alongside his sinking ship and took on the ship’s crew before it dove for the bottom of the Lake. All crew members were rescued. The Dot was formerly known as the Canadian schooner, Mary Merritt, and was built in St. Catharines, Ontario in 1865. Her remains rest in over 350′ of water.

Frank W. Wheeler, a schooner-barge that sank during a gale on Sept. 29, 1885

A relatively new schooner-barge, Frank W. Wheeler, was being towed by a steamer when a gale swept across the lake. Both ships struggled in the increasingly harsh conditions for hours before the Wheeler’s crew realized that their ship was sinking. Captain William Forbes, owner and captain of the Frank W. Wheeler, signaled his predicament to the steamer, the Kittie M. Forbes, and the pair then tried to reach the safety of Grand Island, near present-day Munising, MI. Captain Forbes ordered his men into a lifeboat just 15 minutes before the ship sank, bow first. Several explosions were heard as the ship slipped beneath the waves. The Frank W. Wheeler was built in West Bay City, MI (West Bay City Shipbuilding Co.) and her wreckage now lies in over 600′ of water.

Michigan, a schooner barge that encountered rough weather and sank on Oct. 2, 1901

The steamer M.M. Drake (the same vessel which towed the Dot) was towing the schooner-barge Michigan near Vermilion Point, located 12 miles west of Whitefish Point. Both vessels were battling rough weather when suddenly the Michigan’s hold begins filling with water. Captain J.W. Nicholson maneuvered the M.M. Drake alongside the Michigan, with the latter ship’s crew jumping from their sinking ship onto the Drake. Minutes later, a massive wave smashed the two vessels together, destroying the Drake’s smokestack and leaving the ship without steam pressure. Without power, the Drake soon lost headway and waves swept over her decks. Both crews were now in danger, but two large steel steamers, the Crescent City and Northern Wave, were nearby and maneuvered in to rescue the combined crews. Mr. Harry Brown, the Michigan’s cook, was the lone casualty in this unusual double sinking. The remains of the M.M. Drake were discovered in 1978 by the Shipwreck Society, and her rudder is on exhibit at Whitefish Point. The Michigan’s hull is in 650′ of water.

More information on shipwrecks in the Great Lakes can be found HERE.

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